Arata Isozaki began his career in 1954, in the office of Kenzo Tange, his former professor and the most influential figure in postwar Japanese architecture. While Tange's architecture was in itself radical in its conception, it was his urban projects that most influenced the younger generation of architects, including Isozaki. Tange's Plan for Tokyo (1960) is critical in this regard. Trying to reconcile the incredible density of Tokyo's urban fabric with the rapid expansion and reformulation of modern social structures, Tange's plan proposed multilevel urban construction layered over the existing city and its waterways.
Radical new visions of the city were not limited to Tange's plans for Tokyo. The New Babylon project that Constant Nieuwenhuis began in the 1950s, Yona Friedman's Spatial Plan for Paris of 1958, and the work of the collective Archigram in the 1960s embraced urban transformation as a means toward achieving social change. In Isozaki's City in the Air (Joint Core System) project of 1962, the multilayered city hovers over the traditional city, the scale of which can be seen at the far right. Highways and parking structures thread their way between massive pylons that support blocks of offices and apartments above. The ground plane is reconstituted as tiers of gardens above and within the blocks.
Isozaki's City in the Air (Joint Core System) project was undertaken in 1960, the same year a number of younger architects, almost all of them affiliated with Tange, issued the Metabolist Manifesto. While Isozaki was never formally a member of the group, his project and the work produced by the Metabolists over the course of the decade largely reflected Tange's description of his own urban work: "By incorporating elements of space, speed, and drastic change in the physical environment, we created a method of structuring having elasticity and changeability."
Publication excerpt from an essay by Terence Riley, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 120.
In Arata Isozaki's unrealized design for the Joint Core System spatial construction, massive pylons support elevated transportation, housing, and office systems as well as parks and walkways, suspended above the existing city. This scheme was undertaken at a time when Kenzo Tange and a group of five young architects working in his office, known as the Metabolists, were creating radical solutions for restructuring Tokyo's rapid and uncontrolled postwar growth. As a member of Tange's office, Isozaki was inspired by Tange's proposal for a multilevel urban construction above the city. But, unlike Tange's plan, in which a square support system limits expansion to four directions, Isozaki's round columns permit growth in any direction.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Bevin Cline and Tina di Carlo, in Terence Riley, ed., The Changing of the Avant-Garde: Visionary Architectural Drawings from the Howard Gilman Collection, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 49.